I have great personal experience with prescription drug horror stories, as well as an academic background in all things psychology.
As I sauntered into the CVS pharmacy to procure my first-ever anti-anxiety aid, Lexapro, I was astonished at the lack of information offered by the on-call pharmacists. I asked a seemingly simple question: What are the main side effects of Lexapro? This was answered with a dumbfounded expression and a mumbled "dry mouth?" response.
Disregarding CVS's clear lack of knowledgeable pharm techs, there is an undeniable need for better information about the mental health tablets we innocently ingest. The information packet enclosed with your new bottle is unnervingly limited, yet the average pill-taker may never notice this.
Lexapro (chemical name escitalopram) belongs to an interesting drug family termed SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). More commonly known as antidepressants, these pills are hot commodities in both the public and business realms. Why? Because happy pills sell—and the placebo effect (simply expecting to be happy can cause happiness) is curiously similar to drug response rates. However, do not be immediately discouraged by this—whether you're feeling peachier because of a psychological effect or by a chemical solution, you're still feeling better.
Lexapro is the newest and shiniest out of the SSRI bunch (the five remaining include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Luvox), as it was recently launched in 2002. (But be prepared: Newly FDA-approved Viibryd will undoubtedly be coming soon to subliminalize your TV, magazines, and billboards). Lexapro was thought to be extra special (and marketable) because it possesses additional anti-anxiety properties beyond happy-go-lucky ones. The anti-anxiety nature is linked to the activation of a special serotonin receptor (5HT1A), which, notably, is also the serotonin receptor we know most about. It is marketed to be able to provide indefinite, stable anxiety relief, unlike the fast-acting (but dangerous) prowess of Lorazepam.
Were You Briefed?
The primary untold complication of anti-anxiety agents like Lexapro is that they can cause anxiety disorder symptoms. Another cycle is born: Your effective dose may be increased to compensate, which may further confound anxiety sources.
Here are some side effects of Lexapro that should be on the label:
- SSRIs may inhibit your ability to process caffeine. This is especially true if you are prescribed Prozac or Luvox, but all SSRIs can have this power. If you are one of the millions of humans who drink coffee regularly, you could experience a sudden, inexplicable intolerance or toxicity to your favorite pick-me-up. This means that drinking your usual three cups of coffee now sparks uncomfortable symptoms of caffeinism, including anxiety, agitation, jitters, mood changes, tachycardia, hypertension, and gastrointestinal disturbances, which are some of the exact sensations that started you on the happy pill. You may still be able to drink your favorite black stuff, but only with caution and in much lower quantities.
- SSRIs may inhibit your ability to process nicotine. Similar to the problems with caffeine, the chemicals in SSRIs can inhibit tummy enzymes responsible for the breakdown of nicotine, causing a smoker to unexpectedly experience a negative response to the accustomed dose.
- Sexual Dysfunction (as a side effect) is more prevalent than it appears. Most SSRI labels will present comforting, low symptom occurrence rates, but recent research and Consumer Reports have claimed that up to 80% of users experience some form of drug-induced sexual dysfunction.
Lexapro and similar drugs can be effective, but it is important to strive to be an informed pill-taker.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
spiderfly on December 19, 2015:
Overall, I feel much better on lexapro but like most people I have increased fatigue. I have increased smoking e-cigarettes as a result giving me more energy during the day. I know there are health risks in this but I feel better.
Ryan age 26 on March 28, 2014:
WoW some nice info I have been on Escitalopram for a year now I take 10mg in the morning after 30mins to an hour later I take 95 mg of methadone for Opiate addiction and Diazepam 10mg twice daily for anxiety. I never had any adverse reaction with my 3 cups of coffee or smoking my pack of smokes daily. Well everyone is different I guess :)
graceym on March 29, 2012:
I had two cups of coffee this morning and had cripling anxiety with 15 mg of lexapro.
but of course on February 01, 2012:
It´s much better to be suicidal in a coffeshop, than abstaining from caffeine and living symptom free :)
JenPsych (author) on May 24, 2011:
I'm glad you found some comfort in your green tea - I am currently on a hunt to find a tea that tastes yummy and efficiently calms me. Are you currently taking Lexapro at 10 or soon to be 20mg? I just got off it and discovered some very odd side effects :/
Hope you are doing well!
Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on May 22, 2011:
well now, I feel like I failed meds 101. I didn't know these side affects and they do explain much. I take only 10mg a day (but soon probably upping to 20mg) for the happy pill affect as well its properties for PTSD and OCD, which both become exasperated with hypomanic - manic states.
Oddly, I switched to green tea acacia berry blueberry tea and only have coffee in the AM now and not all day. Plus, in my war against aspartame I have almost eliminated diet sodas, thus its caffeine. And, I do seem to be much calmer.
The smoking part, well, I'll try to pay attention more. The sex part would be hard to define since being bipolar hypersexuality is prevalent contrasting with being diabetic or ED , , ,the green tea mix helps - LOL, and sublimation with writing , , ,
Well, I seemed to have wandered a bit :), but this hub prompted spontaneity. Very informative hub, and since I am up (3:47am) I will read another of yours, then hubhop a bit , , ,remember to have fun, fun, fun and smile, oh wait, you are already doing that , , ,
JenPsych (author) on April 22, 2011:
Thank you, Simone!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 22, 2011:
Wow, good to know! Love the image, by the way.